The Missing Text
The debates of the English New Left in the summer of 1961 as backdrop to the memorable essay by Raymond Williams, printed below—and possible explanation for its first appearance in an obscure, formerly CIA-funded literary journal. Perry Anderson asks how knowledge of it would revise Edward Thompson’s critical assessment of The Long Revolution in NLR.
The Future of Marxism
Published at last in NLR, a remarkable, long-buried intervention by one of the leading thinkers of the early New Left. Characteristically original and independent-minded considerations of the relation of Marxism to the actually existing Communist regimes and the correspondences of socialist theory and practice across the ‘three worlds’, written just after The Long Revolution.
An Afternoon with Althusser
Notes on a conversation in the summer of 1977, when the philosopher made an impromptu visit to the NLR office. Wide-ranging discussion on Althusser’s relations with the PCF, the condition of Marxism, the Chinese and Russian revolutions compared; Trotsky, Sraffa and the problems with Gramsci’s concept of hegemony.
As the world of Soviet Communism disintegrates around him, a young Russian discovers the thought and moral example of the great Italian revolutionary who was his grandfather. Antonio Gramsci Jnr on his legacy, and the remarkable family of his grandmother, Giulia Schucht.
The Party and its Success Story
How should the balance-sheet of Chinese Communism be assessed? In a rejoinder to Perry Anderson’s comparison of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, Wang Chaohua delivers a critical verdict on the record of Mao’s utopianism and Deng’s pragmatism, and the bleak legacy of the crushing of popular aspirations in 1989.
In the second part of a sweeping reconstruction of the development of Marx’s thought, the ways in which bourgeois society came to be replaced by capitalism as the cardinal object of investigation after the collapse of the revolutions of 1848, and the political lessons of his passage across that watershed for rebellions in the new century.
Opening salvo of a two-part reconstruction of Marx’s intellectual passage through the Hegelian—then Ricardian—conceptual landscape of his early years, taking him to the threshold of his mature architectonics of capitalism as a mode of production. From a starting-point in the philosophical empyrean of the 1830s to a turning-point with the economic upturn of the early 1850s, the development of one sketch of an historical materialism to the brink of another.
How to Begin from the Beginning
Mountaineering lessons from the Bolsheviks’ master strategist provide a metaphor for regroupment in hard times. Slavoj Žižek identifies the principal antagonisms within contemporary capitalism, as the basis for positing anew the ‘communist hypothesis’.
Culture and Society, Then and Now
The idea of culture in Raymond Williams’s classic work, and discrepant readings of it, fifty years on. Gestation amid CP debates on the English tradition, hidden affinities with the Frankfurt School, and counterposition to the verities of today’s liberal multiculturalism.
The Communist Hypothesis
Why does the spectre of May 68 still haunt French discourse? Alain Badiou on the country’s longue durée sequences of restoration and revolt, and the place of Sarkozy’s presidency within them. Lessons in political courage from Plato and Corneille, and a call to reassert the Manifesto’s founding wager.
Fosterites and Feminists, Or 1950s Ultra-Leftists and the Invention of AmeriKKKa
“‘It suffices but to mention the chauvinist ideology which still penetrates the core and culture of our national life, rendering many people susceptible to infliction from this social disease.’—Claudia Jones” read more
History and Illusion
“My comments on François Furet’s book are sceptical. It therefore seems just to note at the outset that there is much in Le passé d’une illusion which I admire, notably the brilliant and beautifully written first chapter on la passion révolutionnaire, and much with which I agree, having . . .” read more
Democracy and the Ends of Marxism
“The relationship between socialism and democracy has been a complex and a contested one. To large numbers of socialists it was axiomatic that their project, both the goal of socialism and the movement for it, must be democratic. They saw socialism as the heir to older, liberal and . . .” read more
The Travail of Italian Communism
“If ‘The Triumph of the Leopard’ (nlr 199) had been written by a member of Rifondazione Comunista—by an Italian Communist who hadn’t yet recovered from the shock of the pci’s death and its resurrection as the pds—a reader could understand (and possibly forgive) the onesidedness . . .” read more
Taking Women’s Work for Granted
“Lucio Magri’s article on the European Left, in nlr 189, presents an unusually positive and encouraging perspective for radical politics in the coming years, discussing with welcome realism the most disastrous aspects of recent history. It is a valuable aid in what for some of us is . . .” read more
The Future of a Disillusion
“It looks as though the Soviet Union, or the pieces that it may soon become, will embrace capitalism, or fall into a severe authoritarianism, or undergo both of those fates. That is not an original thought. While a certain amount of humane socialist rhetoric survives even now in . . .” read more
The European Left Between Crisis and Refoundation
“Today we cannot understand anything of Europe, the European Left or any other problem in the world unless we start out, in a spirit of truth, from the epochal shift of the last few years that has resulted in the political, ideological and economic collapse of the Communist . . .” read more
Fin de Siecle: Socialism after the Crash
“As we enter the last decade of the twentieth century, the ruin of ‘Marxist-Leninist’ Communism has been sufficiently comprehensive to eliminate it as an alternative to capitalism and to compromise the very idea of socialism. The debacle of Stalinism has embraced reform-communism, and has brought no benefit to . . .” read more
What Does Socialism Mean Today? The Rectifying Revolution and the Need for New Thinking on the Left
“There has recently been a spate of articles about the end of the socialist illusion, about the failure of an idea, and even about West European or German intellectuals finally coming to terms with the past. In them, rhetorical questions always prepare the way for the refrain that . . .” read more
The Upturned Utopia
“The catastrophe of historical communism stands literally before everyone’s eyes—the catastrophe of communism as a world movement, born of the Russian Revolution, promising emancipation of the poor and oppressed, the ‘wretched of the earth’. The process of decomposition is continually speeding up, beyond anything predicted. This does not . . .” read more
Reflections on the Crisis of Communist Regimes
“The massacre in Tiananmen Square last June is unlikely to be the last violent expression of the deep and multiple crises—economic, social, political, ethnic, ideological, moral—which grip many Communist regimes, and which will in due course most probably grip them all. A vast ‘mutation’ is going on throughout . . .” read more
Class Politics: The Lost World of British Communism (Part III)
“The schism in British Communism, like many of those in Marxist political formations, resembles nothing so much as a war of ghosts in which the living actors are dwarfed by the spectres they conjure up. The debate on the ‘British way’—the major issue at the 1977 Congress when . . .” read more
Marxism and Utopianism in the USA
“For more than a century and a quarter Marxism has occupied an important position in American social criticism, but never a dominant one. For most socialists between the 1870s and World War One, Marx had set forth primarily an analysis of the laws of capitalist exploitation and accumulation, . . .” read more
The PCI and the Historic Compromise
“Few on the left will disagree with the view that the turn taken by events in Italy in recent years is deeply depressing. Capitalism is unquestionably more stable today than at any time since the boom years of the late 1950s, and the social and cultural upheavals of . . .” read more
A Reply to Gundle
“In Italy history repeats itself: a general election has been called one year early to avoid a referendum whose result might shake the political and economic establishment represented by the dc, iri and Confindustria. In 1987 nuclear power has taken on the importance of divorce in . . .” read more
Problems of Marxist History
“Harvey Kaye is an American professor of Social Change and Development, an enviable title probably not yet adopted anywhere in conservative Britain. It must come more naturally to the American mind, in a country where things are always changing, even if as a rule circularly. One thing that . . .” read more
The Indian Left
“The record of the major formations of the Indian Left is contradictory in the extreme. Alone in the capitalist world, the two Communist parties (cpi and cpm) have had lengthy experience of administering semi-autonomous regions, while their respective trade union federations have played a major role . . .” read more
The PCI Congress
“The 17th Congress of the Italian Communist Party was held in Florence between 9 and 13 April, in the midst of Reagan’s first round of sabre-rattling against Libya and his authorization of a new nuclear test in Nevada. Since, as we shall see, the main peculiarity of the . . .” read more
International Communism in the Heyday of Stalin
“Serious scholarship on the history of Communist Parties has been experiencing a major upswing. Literature was never exactly in short supply. But its value was invariably vitiated by the ingenuousness of its bias, in which the official apologetics of the Communist Parties’ own accounts was matched by the . . .” read more
Staying Power: The Lost World of British Communism (Part II)
“The Communist Party, in my recollection of it (I left the Party in 1956), was singularly free of what are known, in more conventional political formations, as ‘rows’. Succession struggles of a kind endemic in social-democratic parties were unknown, and indeed for the first ten years of its . . .” read more
The Lost World of British Communism: Two Texts
“[NLR readers have been generous with criticisms, corrections and documents. Two of them are reproduced below. The second instalment of this article has been held over for publication in the next issue: Raphael Samuel.]” read more
The Lost World of British Communism
“British political life at the present moment seems peculiarly fissiparous. Four major parties are competing for the popular franchise (in Wales and Scotland five) where previously there were two, and there is an amoeba-like growth of minorities and tendencies within the parties themselves. With the rise of the . . .” read more
Crisis in British Communism: An Insider’s View
“The Communist Party of Great Britain is in the throes of a severe crisis. Political scissions and antagonisms between different tendencies, struggles for control of the Party machine and its publications, expulsions of leading militants, forced suspension of the work of major structures present a dramatic spectacle of . . .” read more
Judging the PCI
“We make our own history but never under conditions of our own choosing. Political parties are normally to a greater or lesser extent reflections of socioeconomic realities, even if occasionally, as in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, they have been known to have lost contact with any reality outside their . . .” read more
Il Manifesto and Italian Communism
“May we start by asking you to clarify in broad terms the differences on international and domestic affairs and on internal party organization which led to the emergence of the Manifesto group and its expulsion from the Communist Party in November 1969?” read more
The Eclipse of Spanish Communism
“In the brief political history of Eurocommunism, which emerged as a public international current in 1974 and has lived only the shadowiest existence since the break-up of the Union de la Gauche in 1977–78, the course of the Communist Party of Spain (pce) merits at least as . . .” read more
Roots of British Communism
“The historiography of the British labour movement in the twentieth century has been dominated by a Whiggish concern with the rise and consolidation of the Labour Party and the emergence of trade unionism as an estate of the realm. Even Marxist historians have found it difficult to escape . . .” read more
On Sneevliet, the Dutch Communist Party and the February Strike of 1941
“At the very end of the article by Michael Williams on the Dutch revolutionary Henk Sneevliet (nlr 123) there is a misleading remark which calls for rectification. It is of relatively little importance for the main argument of the article, but in my opinion it expresses a . . .” read more
Sneevliet and the Birth of Asian Communism
“Henk Sneevliet was a founder-activist of three Communist movements—the Dutch, Indonesian and Chinese—and played a prominent role in the early years of the Communist International. Arguably no other socialist of the period had such a creative and active internationalist career. His profound understanding and sympathy for Asian nationalism . . .” read more